"Running in old shoes is like driving on bald tires....You might make the next town, but then again, you might have a blowout." (J.D.Denton)

Your feet have 26 bones and over 100 muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissue components that all work together to give you balance, support, and cushioning. They are built to withstand the pressure of walking and running, but only if you take proper care of them.

When you run a mile, your feet hit the ground approximately 1,600 times with a force equal to between two and four times your body weight. To protect your feet from damage, you must invest in a good pair of running shoes. Sneakers and tennis shoes don't have sufficient cushioning or support for distance running. Also, good running shoes are typically much lighter than regular sneakers.

The more than 150 different running shoe models available can overwhelm any runner. Deciding whether you need stability, motion control, cushioned or lightweight training and trail shoes depends on your arch, your body type, and how your foot strikes the ground (pronation), as well as the surface you run on. Before buying shoes, do some research. You can check out Runner's World or visit several running specialty shoe stores. Take your old shoes with you. Based on the wear of your shoes, the distances you are running and on what surfaces you run, the personnel will be able to offer you advice on which shoes will best suit your needs.

When you're ready to buy shoes, take along a pair of socks that you plan to run in. Most athletic shoe stores have a treadmill you can run on, or they will let you run around the store to get the feel of the shoe. Make certain the shoe fits. Nothing is worse than buying a shoe that doesn't properly fit your foot. Understand the store's return policy. Some stores let you return the shoes after wearing them a couple times; others don't. Since your feet tend to swell after a run, you should visit the store after a run or late in the day if possible.

You do get what you pay for, so don't buy the cheapest shoe you find. Be prepared to spend from $65 to $125 for a good pair of shoes. Considering that you don't have to buy any fancy expensive equipment, accessories, or club membership plans, the cost is minimal. If you run simultaneous days, you may want to buy a second pair to alternate. Shoes need time to breathe. Always let your shoes dry out if they get wet. This helps them last longer and prevents odors. (Don't put them into a hot dryer, let them air dry or use a fan to help speed up the drying process.)

Keep track of the mileage you run in your shoes. You will need to replace them between four and five hundred miles, and some even sooner, depending on what weather conditions you run in, how much you weigh, and how hard you wear your shoes. Even if the shoes don't look worn out, the midsoles will have lost their cushioning and resiliency. If you continue to wear worn out shoes, you increase your chance of injury.

If you experience foot or leg pains while running, you may need to see an orthopedist or a podiatrist who may recommend an orthotic for your shoe.

Copyright 2001, Rachel Keller

Author's Bio: 

Rachel Keller is a freelance author and homeschooling frugal mom of 5 who enjoys running, cycling, aerobics, strength
training, and flexibility exercises. She has participated in many races, earning a collection of medals and trophies. She has both a bachelor of science and a master's degree in education and has been published numerous times. To read more by Rachel Keller, visit her website at Rachel's Writings (http://www.rachelkeller.com).